More formally content from the social studies provides the unifying themes and topics for project, thematic, or unit learning. Ten themes have been identified by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS, 2004). These themes guide teachers’ planning and curriculum development. They are:
- Culture. Cultural diversity is a fact. Children need to comprehend multiple perspectives that emerge from within their culture and from diverse cultural groups. In the kindergarten, children learn to interact with others and begin developing the idea of cultural universals, that people everywhere have the same need for shelter, food, and clothing, and all cultures have art, music, literature, and dance.
- Time, Continuity, and Change. Children learn to understand their own roots and to locate themselves in time. Young children can experience sequence and a sense of order and time. Stories of their own past, and the past of others long ago, are available to young children.
- People, Places, and Environments. The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions leads children to create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world.
- Individual Development and Identity. Children develop knowledge of who they are, and construct, test, confirm, revise, and apply multiple concepts of and multiple identities as to who they are. In the kindergarten children have opportunities to examine personal changes, ideas about who they are and what they believe they can do and learn.
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions. Children study the interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions. Young children can examine the rights and responsibilities of the individual in relation to his or her family, social groups, community, and nation.
- Production, Distribution, and Consumption. Peoples’ wants and needs exceed the resources available to them. As a result, humans have invented ways of producing, distributing, and consuming goods. Learning to differentiate between wants and needs begins in the early grades.
- Civic Ideals and Practices. The study of civic ideals and practices prepares learners for full participation in a democratic society. Kindergarten children are involved in establishing rules and expectations of behavior and how to balance the needs of individuals and the group.
- Power, Authority and Governance. Children develop an increasingly comprehensive awareness of rights and responsibilities in specific contexts. Early learners explore their natural and developing sense of fairness and order as they experience relationships with others.
- Science, Technology and Society. Modern life as we know it would not be possible without technology and the science that supports it. Early learners can explore how their daily lives interwine with a host of technologies. They can look at how such things as ships, automobiles, and airplanes have evolved and how something like air conditioning has changed their environment.
- Global Connections. Children need to learn that they are part of the world at large. Through exposure to various media and first-hand experiences, young children can explore the diversity and the commonalities that exist between people around the world. They can also learn how they are affected by events that happen on a global scale.
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